Jay Mariotti and The Problem With Star Employees
BY Mike Hofman
Star employees are tough to manage. Employers value them so highly (too highly?) that they fear offending them. Co-workers resent them. And the stars themselves, having acclimated to exceptional treatment, demand better pay and perks regardless of the success of the overall business and their admittedly outsized value to it.
For the uninitiated, Mariotti is a big story in Chicago right now. A star sports columnist, he was considered one of the big draws for Sun-Times readers in part because he was controversial and colorful and in part because he often appeared on ESPN. Even as the newspaper cut back in other areas, it protected Mariotti and paid him a big salary, breeding some resentment against him in the newsroom.
This week, Mariotti quit the paper, and his former bosses and colleagues have been having a field day. "On your way out, don't let the door bang you on the ass," the film critic Roger Ebert wrote in a widely-circulated e-mail.
Hollon's analysis: "At most places I have worked, the top executives would have reacted in one of two ways [to Mariotti's departure]—and sometimes both. 1) They would be publicly sad and dismayed to be losing such a critical part of the franchise. 2) They would be secretly dancing on their desks, glad to be rid of such a huge drain on resources. Either way, they would normally say the right things in public and wish the departing star all the best in his future endeavors."
But after reviewing some of the disparaging remarks made by Sun-Times executives about their former star (not to mention a banner headline in the paper that made light of Mariotti's departure), Hollon wonders, "What does it say about an organization that pays someone a superstar salary for 17 years, then trashes his (and by extension, its own) reputation when he decides to leave?"
What do you think? Do you believe that star workers should be treated differently? And what's the proper way to handle a star's departure?
Last updated: Sep 30, 2008
MIKE HOFMAN was previously editor of Inc.com and a deputy editor at Inc. magazine, which he joined in 1996. The site was nominated for a National Magazine Award for Digital Media in 2010, and was named the best business website by Folio Magazine. In 2006, Hofman was part of a team of writers nominated for a Webby Award for best business blog. He lives in New York City. @mikehofman